Propertyscouts Dunedin

ODT Article - Tenant’s flat issue resolved - 20th Jun 2016

A Dunedin tenant is worried about his safety after discovering he is living in a rental property illegally split into three units.

David Smith moved into the unit in Bewley Ave, Macandrew Bay, three months ago.

He was not told the $260-a-week accommodation did not meet building standards and believes the property management company, LJ Hooker, should have been aware of this.

The property is now subject to a Dunedin City Council order giving the owner 30 days to either remove the units, or apply for a resource consent, which the planning department would be "unlikely'' to support.

Mr Smith believed living in the unit was unsafe and wanted to move out as soon as possible.

He was initially not pleased by LJ Hooker's response to the order, but was happier after meeting managing director Wayne Graham and being invited to settle the situation without going to the Tenancy Tribunal.

Since the meeting, he had reached a settlement with LJ Hooker.

Before the settlement was agreed, Mr Graham said he was intent on quickly reaching a resolution both parties were happy with.

He accepted communication within the office could have been better and he should have been told about Mr Smith's situation sooner.

The company was about to implement a new policy to ensure all properties complied with health and safety standards.

This, for instance, would mean if owners declined to install smoke alarms, LJ Hooker would no longer manage their properties.

Council building services manager Neil McLeod said under the Building Act an owner must notify the council of a change in use for the property and comply with the building code for means of escape from fire, protection of other property, structural performance, and fire rating performance.

"This work would require a building consent and there is no record of this happening in this instance,'' Mr McLeod said.

Not getting building consent meant there was the potential for tenants to be harmed in the event of a fire if the correct fire safety features were not in place.

The council had "not yet contemplated prosecution'', which was an option available to it, but had asked the building's owner to rectify the situation.

The council order, which was supplied to the Otago Daily Times, said the property also breached the council's district plan, which allows only one unit per 500sqm in a residential one zone.

As the property was 751sqm, the two additional units breached the plan.

The order said the owners could lodge a resource consent application for the additional units but, based on similar applications, the planning department was unlikely to support such an application and it would need to be publicly notified.

The owners of the property have requested their details be removed from the council's online records and efforts to contact them were unsuccessful.

Mr Smith believed the owners were overseas.

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